Ok, so there are many more than simply 10 facts to know about this wonderful city, but just to give you a taste of life in Vienna, the following 10, somewhat random, facts should be enough to tide you over until I can gush about everything in person. So, here we go.
1. The original snow globe was invented here, by accident, in 1900. At first, attempting to make his own light bulb, Erwin Perzy I created the first snow globe, using the Basilica of Mariazell as its subject. This basilica was one of the first sights I saw in Austria and was in the town where I spent the first three days in this wonderful country. The snow was made of ground rice. The factory still resides in Vienna and now creates made-to-order snow globes, including one recently made for the Obama family. The Perzy family sill owns and operates the company and has kept it rather small and authentic, creating snow globes of all different subjects to hold memories in a unique fashion.
2. The Danube river, known as the Donau in German, is unique as it runs through 4 capital cities, the most in the world. It is Europe’s major river flowing West to East, starting in Germany’s Black Forest and flows into the Black Sea through Romania and the Ukraine. The river plays a main role in the lives of all countries through which it flows, but especially in its 4 major capital cities using the river for trade, protection, and an attractive destination. These capital cities include: Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary; and Belgrade, Serbia. Originally used as a natural border and protective tool against invaders, Vienna is the only city of the 4 that has the river running along the outer edges of the inner city, rather than the city center. The river was also the subject of the largest environmental dispute taken to international court when Slovakia wanted to divert the Danube, while Hungary, originally a partner in the endeavor, decided it was too destructive.
3. Vienna is known as both the “city of dreams” and “the city of music,” making it a large tourist attraction to people from all over the world. The “city of dreams” term came from Sigmund Freud’s influence in the city during his research, as he was the world’s first psycho-analyst and was born in Vienna. Composers such as Strauss I, Strauss II, Schubert, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, von Suppé, Mahler, and Brahms. Vienna remains today a mecca for musicians and aspiring musicians. A major music university is situated across the street from Palais Corbelli, the IES center. Music flows through the windows and into the street, making a wonderful atmosphere during the week.
4. The Zentralfriedhof, the “Central Cemetery” of Vienna, opened in 1874, holds a dead population of almost twice the living population of Vienna. In its time of erection, a horse tram ran from the first district of the city to the cemetery. It was eventually replaced with an electric tram, which still runs the same route today, and was named the “71” in 1901. From its beginning to today, this tram is the major public transportation line to the cemetery. The Viennese developed a euphemism saying a person had “taken the 71” when they died. Oddly enough, my apartment is in the direction of the Zentralfriedhof. I “take the 71” every day.
5. Just like Berlin, Vienna was also divided into four pieces at the conclusion of World War II. France, Britain, Russia, and the United States all took control over certain sections, imposing similar laws as were in Berlin. However, Vienna’s first district was implemented as an international zone, giving the cities important cultural center a chance to remain authentic. The occupation ended in 1955 with the Austrian State Treaty, stating Austria’s dedication to a neutral stance and the vow not to become a member of NATO nor the Soviet bloc.
6. Vienna is sometimes known synonymously with the Baroque and Rococo styles. The city also has a rich Romanesque history and old Roman ruins beneath the modern city level. Interestingly enough, Vienna is greatly lacking in any Renaissance architecture. Because of two large Turkish sieges upon the city during the height of Renaissance influence, barely any architecture of this time was built. Instead, the overwhelmingly beautiful and decorative Baroque style dominates the city, leaving other architectural styles to stand out among the rest.
7. Over 200 balls take place every year in Vienna. Balls are offered usually for 3 months starting in January and lasting through March. The most popular venue for a Viennese ball is at the Hofburg Imperial Palace in the center of the city. Live orchestras play the classical music, waltzes, and even some 20th century pieces providing a taste of different dance for everyone. However, everyone in Vienna seems to know how to waltz, and rather well, I might add. The Viennese ball is a cultural tradition held dear to Viennese hearts every year.
8. Vienna is the only capital city to produce its own wine. Vineyards within the city limits produce incredible wine for the country, making it a dear tradition in the spring. Heurigens are highly popular. Each Heurigen produces and serves its own wine, selling the newly fermented product each spring. They only serve their own wine and once they run out, they close for the season. Heurigens are mostly located in the outer districts near their vineyards, serve local food, and provide a very “Austrian” atmosphere. The perfect day includes a hike through the Vienna Woods and then a stop at a Heurigen for food, good wine, and friends.
9. Stephansdom, Saint Stephan’s Cathedral in English, is one of the most important and famous Cathedrals in Vienna. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. A popular tourist attraction and an area I walk through every day to get to school, Stephansplatz, is named after this Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral which stands at the center of this pedestrian square. The South Tower stands as an important symbol in Vienna; so much so, that a law was passed declaring that no building in Vienna shall be taller than the tower. The North Tower, which was supposed to stand on the northern side of the Cathedral, completing its symmetry was never completed. Viennese believe in a legend which gives the reason as to why it was never completed. It goes as follows:
In the late 15th century and apprentice began working upon the tower under the guidance of his master. The apprentice was in love with his master’s daughter and longed to marry her. However, his master gave him the condition that in order to marry his daughter the apprentice had to finish building the tower in a year, an impossible task. The apprentice worked incredibly hard in an attempt to finish the tower, vowing to marry his true love. One day, a crippled, old, disheveled man appeared on the roof where the apprentice was working. He offered to help this apprentice, saying he would ensure the completion of the tower within the year. The apprentice, being rather smart, before agreeing to his help, asked for the condition. The man said he must not speak the name of the mother of God during that year, or the deal would be off. The apprentice agreed. The two began to work furiously on the tower, building at a much faster rate than before. One day, the apprentice spotted his master’s daughter and her sister walking on the square below as he worked on the roof above. Excited to see his true love, he went to the edge, waved and called her name, “Maria!” Immediately, the apprentice fell from the roof and landed on the ground below, dying from impact as he said the Holy Mother’s name. Some say he lost his balance, others say the old man pushed him. Regardless, the Viennese believe the Devil had a hand in the event, and have never dared to finish the tower, leaving it where it stopped, half the height of the South Tower.
10. PEZ were invented in Vienna! These fun candies were originally invented exclusively in the peppermint flavor in 1927. In fact, the name PEZ comes from an abbreviation of the German word for peppermint “Pfeffermintz.” The PEZ dispenser was also invented in Vienna; in 1949 smoking was prohibited and the first PEZ dispenser was created to look like a lighter. The company’s new slogan became, “No smoking-PEZ allowed!” PEZ dispensers to this day take on this same shape, although not as blatantly resembling the lighter. PEZ were also not introduced to the United States until 1953. Thank goodness, because otherwise this moment would never have happened:
As always, thanks for reading! More to come soon about my spring break trip to Paris!